Reveling In The Feasts Of Alicante
Alicante has become a major tourist center in just the past couple of decades, thanks to some of the mildest and most inviting climate in all of continental Europe, as well as the superlative location, magnificent city setting, and infinite golden sugar sand beaches. This wonderful city is located at the very southern extremity of Catalonia, but you would be excused if you didn’t notice as it is thoroughly and profoundly Spanish.
The geography of Alicante is definitely unique. You can leave a sugar sand beach with the blue Mediterranean lapping at the shore and within ten minutes be in a hilly desert landscape reminiscent of Tucson, Arizona. Fortunately, Alicante has so far escaped the wall to wall condo and hotel skyscraperization which has devastated nearby Benidorm, turning it into a concrete canyon from Hell.
Alicante is famous for its feasts and the most notable one is the Hogueras de San Juan, also known as the Fogueres de Sant Joan in Catalan, or the Nights of San Juan in English. This unique and completely unusual celebration centers on the exhibition of the Hogueras, or enormous artistic monuments made of wood and cardboard which usually satirize one aspect or another of local life and are branded with an association to a particular neighborhood of Alicante. Each one of these 88 districts also presents one of its “Belleza del Fuego” or Beauties of the Flame to a city-wide pageant from which the Bellea del Foc, or the City Queen is elected and she then will preside over various activities throughout the Hogueras and allow the male feasters to gaze upon her “Belleza”!
The Feast Of The Flames is one of the most spectacular on the Alicante festival calendar. The feast begins on the 20th of June and continues for four days. At the end of the feast, there is a spectacular fireworks display from the area of the Castillo de Santa Barbara, high upon Mount Benacantil which dominates the area and is visible from virtually every point in the city and region. At this time, all of the Hogueras are set alight and visitors and residents alike dance and celebrate around the flames.
This summer solstice feast has ancient and some say pagan roots which may be able to be traced back to the Celts. Regardless of its origin, it is a four day blowout blast which sees 24 hour a day frenetic activity take over the city, from parades to sporting events, and include large scale musical and theatrical productions, cavalcades, street performances, markets, parties, and some of the finest bullfights in all of Spain.
Alicante is a true feast city, with some of the most extensive Moros y Cristianos “Muslims and Christians” parades in Southern Spain which commemorate the many centuries when the area was under Arab control. Some of the many other feasts include Carneval, and the processions of the Sacred Week and of the Santa Faz Monastery. No matter when you visit Alicante you will always be near some feast day or another and they are well worth exploring for their historical heritage, unique sights, and most importantly for the all day all night parties!
Few North Americans are even remotely aware of Alicante as its tourism marketing is directed primarily to Northern Europeans, but I can assure you that it's definitely worth the trip!